A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

I now twit, er... or tweet. Anyway, you can follow me on twitter @Aeon1202

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Status Report: 1.2 lbs. lost, 60.2 lbs. total

I would like to direct your attention to my weight loss ticker at the bottom right of this blog – it looks like a cute little snail making its way along a very long road.  You will see that it says that I have lost 60.2 lbs. and have 59.8 lbs. to go – which means that I am, officially, closer to my goal than I am to the beginning.  It’s just barely, but I am over the halfway point!

So two things I learned this week:

The first is that if I absolutely, positively have to have a week off – then that’s okay.  I caught a cold nearly two weeks ago and was feeling too weak and sickly to work out.  I also didn’t feel good enough to muster nearly enough care about what I was eating.  So when it came time to get weighed in last Wednesday I knowingly played hooky.  I got right back on the wagon and simply counted the week as a loss.  I don’t know if I put on any weight during my cold week, and I don’t care.  I had too much else going on emotionally to worry about it, so I simply didn’t.

The second thing is that losing weight appears to have affected my ability to recover from illness.  As I mentioned, I caught a cold.  It started Monday morning the 10th and resolved itself in about seven to ten days afterward just like a normal cold is supposed to.

The thing is, in my lifetime colds have never worked that way.  When I get a cold I’ve always begun coughing within a few days of onset because I have a form of asthma called cough variant asthma (CVA for short) which is set off by getting sick.  The coughing can continue anywhere from a month to a full three months of nonstop misery both for me and the people around me.  I can recall being a kid in school and suffering the disdain and anger of my classmates who were thoroughly tired of hearing my constant barking (although believe me they could not have been as tired of it as I was having to suffer through it).

This time I coughed a bit, nothing serious, and then the cold just went away exactly like it’s supposed to.  Sixteen days later I’m fully recovered and back to normal.

I can’t imagine why a lighter body weight would have such a huge effect on my lungs, so I’m assuming it’s all the exercise that made a difference.  The heart and lungs both grow stronger during cardio-aerobic activity, and that strength must have kept the cough from settling in and making itself at home.

It's an unexpected bonus, and one I am outstandingly grateful for.  Losing an entire quarter of a year to the headache, abdominal aches, lost sleep and negative social ramifications of a constant, nagging cough is beyond miserable.  If this turns out to be a consistent result for me, then it's a life changer.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest Post: Onion and Mushroom Toad in the Hole

It's been a while since I contributed to Carolyn's blog. But now that life is settling down here in my new home I'll take a little time to talk about what I'm eating.

A little while ago, The Husband picked up a new cookbook, Eat by Nigel Slater. It’s loaded with a lot of simple yet lovely recipes. The one that immediately made it into our breakfast rotation was Spiced Eggs with Squash. It’s made with butternut squash, spices, and eggs. It’s ridiculously simple and a great way to start the day full of steamed squash.

Flipping through the cookbook the other night we both ‘oohed’ over Onion and Mushroom Toad in the Hole. We gave it a try this weekend.

Toad in the Hole is one of those traditional British ‘use up your leftovers’ recipes. Mix up a Yorkshire pudding and throw some leftover cooked meat in the batter before baking. The Yorkshire pudding rises up like a popover in the pan, forming a bowl (I think this is the "hole") with the meat at the bottom. Serve with some gravy and vegetables and you’re set! Nowadays when the dish is served the meat is usually sausage and it’s usually not leftover from a previous meal.

This vegetarian version featured some of my very favorite things: mushrooms and shallots. It also had a cheese I had never heard of, Caerphilly. I couldn't turn down a new cheese. We went ingredient shopping.

Banana shallots
Dried porcini mushrooms
Plain flour
Grain mustard
Groundnut oil

Our first tweak was to get fresh chestnut mushrooms. They’re a bit like cremini mushrooms. Dried porcini mushrooms were available, but we’re suckers for fresh mushrooms. Plus we’d have leftover fresh mushrooms for other meals over the weekend.

Groundnut oil is peanut oil. The first time I went looking for it I had a “well, duh” moment. Of course that’s what it’s called - peanuts grow underground.

As I mentioned, Caerphilly is one of the cheeses I had never heard about until moving to the UK. It's originally Welsh (named after the town where it was first sold), it’s crumbly and a little tart. The label said 'lemony'. Imagine a harder feta that's much less salty. I liked it a lot. (According to Wikipedia, the town of Caerphilly has a cheese festival every year. I may need to check into this.)

Once we started putting this together we realized this wasn't the healthiest dish in the world. This was pure comfort food.

Our final product was less “in the hole” and more “in a pancake”. We accidentally left out half the liquid (d’oh!) and used whole wheat flour rather than plain. This resulted in a much denser batter so it didn't puff up the way a Yorkshire pudding should. Still, our onion and mushroom pancake was delicious.

Next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll use the proper flour, add all the liquid and add less cheese. As much as I loved the cheese I want to add in some veggie sausage or maybe just more mushrooms. I love mushrooms.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


It feels like a precious wound that I am cradling.

Not firm now, but shrinking inside as the cells desiccate.  They grow smaller while the outer covering of winter-pale skin sags, wrinkling down as it empties out inside.  I am soft and loose all over.  I am a melting ice cream cone, a slowly disappearing snowman.

Time passes and I starve and starve it, forcing it to tap into years worth of stored history.  Forcing it to activate a system designed to keep it from dying when there were no resources to be found, a system meant to bring it through a long, cold season of constant deprivation.  I am spelunking into the past of what I was doing/thinking/eating/feeling when that overabundance of energy was secreted away for later times.

This isn’t about beauty.

I run my hands over it and feel the bones beneath the skin where before there was only rolling acres of flesh.  Hard angles pressing my knees against one another when I lay on my side, prominences of hip when I lay on my back.  My cheekbones stand in relief on my face where before they were buried, pillowed by my round, baby-fat features.

For the first time in my life I think that my face looks old.

I look different in pictures but the same when I stand naked, looking down.  I don’t see that I have really changed and yet I don’t fully recognize my own face any longer.  The angular, older-looking face in the mirror isn’t yet me, and I don’t know when it will be.  I don’t know if I lived large for too long to ever heal the slowly hanging scars that are being left behind.

Losing weight isn’t healthy, being at a lesser weight is.  The process of losing weight is a system of slowly doing damage.

I don’t know how to be a “normal” sized person.  I don’t know how that feels, or acts, or looks.  This is exhilarating, and victorious, and frightening, and painful, and more difficult than almost anything I have tried to do before.

I have to continue because I couldn’t love the body that was or the person I knew how to be.  I have to believe that one day I can stop shrinking and this precious wound will finally be allowed to heal.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Product Review: Which Food Cube is Right For You?

Running into an unforeseen problem with my early morning exercise regimen caused me to look into the world of commercially sold nutrition bars (or food cubes, as I prefer to call them).

For me, getting out of bed in the morning is immediately followed by a 45 minute intense workout followed by a shower, getting dressed, and finally my hour long commute to work.  Between all of this I was waking up at 5AM and not getting into work where I actually eat breakfast until around 8AM with a tough workout in between, and by then I was turning into a bit of a mess.  I was exhausted and weak, feeling a lot like a wrung out sponge.  Even after eating I wasn’t feeling really recovered and energetic again until after I’d had lunch at around 1PM in the afternoon.

So three hours was definitely too big a stretch of time between waking, working and finally eating.  Despite having ample resources of fat energy to dip into my metabolism obviously wasn’t doing it fast enough to keep me properly fueled.  I needed to add some food in there somewhere.

I’m in a rush in the mornings and I don’t want to stop and cook up oatmeal or make toast when I’m still at home.  I needed a food I could grab and go – and my boss suggested I try adding a Clif bar to my morning.  He even had an extra one I could take home to eat the next day after I finished working out.

The one he gave me was chocolate peanut crunch flavor, and it was delicious.  I found that eating it right after my workout kept me feeling peppy and energized after taking my shower, all the way to work and through the morning.  Some calories post exercise was definitely looking like the solution to my energy problems.

The Clif bar was tasty like a chewy, peanutty, chocolate covered bar of stuff.  Looking at the ingredients list and searching for customer reviews I soon realized why: it’s because Clif bars are peanutty chocolate bars with some vitamins and soy protein added.  This is why it clocked in at 250 calories with 6 grams of fat and 20 grams of sugar.  It also offers an impressive 11 grams of protein, so it does keep you full for a long time – but I wasn’t finding that benefit worth the long, sugar and soy-laden ingredients list I found myself reading.  Also, I admit that my experience at the weight loss clinic with almost getting my liver suffocated to death by artificial vitamin overload has left me with a phobia of compounds in my food whose names I don’t immediately recognize.

Here it is, if you’re curious…
Clif Bar Chocolate Peanut Crunch Ingredients:
Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Clifpro® (Soy Rice Cripps [Soy Protien Isolate, Rice Flour, Barley Malt Extract], Organic Soy Flour, Organic Roasted Soybeans), Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Cane Syrup, Organic Peanut Butter (Organic Peanuts, Salt) Chocolate Chips (Dried Cane Syrup, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract), Peanut Flour, Peanuts, ClifCrunch® (Organic Oat Fiber, Apple Fiber, Inulin [Chicory Extract], Organic Psyllium, Organic Milled Flaxseed), Organic Date Paste, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt.

What followed next was an internet quest to discover just what the health nuts out there were eating when they decided to reach for a quick, food-based energy boost.  The name that kept coming up, over and over again, was Larabars.

Larabars were (unsurprisingly) invented by a woman named Lara in her kitchen around 14 years ago.  I had heard of them, I knew I’d seen them somewhere at some point, but they are not as popular or easy to locate as their larger, heftier Clif bar cousins.

Larabars are unique in part for what they don’t have.  They are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, kosher and do not contain any genetically modified ingredients.  Some of these traits are important to me in a food, and some are not.  But what I do really really like – are short ingredients lists that contain all familiar names.  Over the years I’ve developed two quick and easy rules for healthful eating – one is that your meals should contain a lot of different colors (and as little beige as possible), and the other is that short ingredient lists with few to no chemical compounds are usually a safe bet.

There isn’t a single Larabar that contains more than nine ingredients.  Unable to lay hands on a box of them when I wanted one, Ted ordered me a variety pack online that had three flavors: Blueberry Muffin, Cashew Cookie, and Peanut Butter Cookie.

Here are the ingredients…
Blueberry Muffin: Blueberries, Blueberry Juice Concentrate, Cashews, Dates, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Vanilla Extract.
Cashew Cookie: Cashews, Dates.
Peanut Butter Cookie: Dates, Peanuts, Sea Salt.

So to put it simply, Larabars aren’t made out of anything but… well, food.  Specifically food that can be found growing off of a plant somewhere.  You can get the exact same effect by eating a handful of fruit and nuts together – so what you’re buying here is somebody to pre-measure for you, combine flavor and texture enjoyment in the creativity of how the different types were assembled, and convenience.  Fruits and nuts being somewhat expensive as foods go, I think the bars are a pretty good deal at around $1.50 each (depending on where and how many you buy).

Larabars average between 190 and 230 calories and contain 8-13 grams of fat, 17-20 grams of sugar and around 4-8 grams of protein.  The three kinds that I bought are all very low in sodium.  Numerically they aren’t radically different from the Clif bar, and with their small size they are what I refer to as a low volume, high calorie food (but all nutrition/energy bars are going to fall into that category).

The reason I chose them is because of where those fats and sugars are coming from.  I believe it makes a difference in the way our bodies break down and process such things.  The sugar in a Larabar is mostly derived from dates.  Dates are nature’s way of growing fudge on a tree.  I’m serious, if you’ve ever eaten one plain that’s what the consistency and sweetness level is like.  It’s a lot of sugar, but it’s all natural fructose – the kind that our bodies can process and use effectively.  The fat is coming from nuts, another great super-food.  Fat is truly not the enemy of the human body.  Although all fat needs to be consumed in moderation, the type of it that you’re taking in is critical.

So… how do they taste?

They’re very moist, dense, chewy and sweet.  They contain big chunks of nuts and pieces of fruit all squashed into a very solid little bar.  The lack of any kind of flour keeps them from being truly cake or cookie-like, but their toothsome nature keeps them from vanishing too quickly.  I nibble through a bar slowly, taking little bites and letting them melt on my tongue.  I’m certainly not stuffed after eating one, but nor am I hungry.  I’m satisfied for enough time to get ready for work, drive in, see to morning meetings, check emails and organize my day.  A few hours after eating one, I’m ready for the late morning snack of fruit that keeps me going until lunch time.

Since they’re conveniently packaged and shelf-stable for a year, I’m planning to keep one in my purse from now on for times when I’m stuck outside the house and tempted toward unhealthy snacking.

In short, they’re a nice little treat and a convenient tool for the health conscious.  More importantly, they fill my tank in just the right way to keep me from crashing post-workout and see me through a busy morning.